A: About additive manufacturing
Additive manufacturing technology has been increasingly important & relevant to the next generation of advanced manufacturing. Previously associated with hobbyists using conventional PLA & ABS material, additive manufacturing is now widely accepted and recognized as the next generation of manufacturing. With improving technologies reducing the production cost, 3D printing is revolutionising its way across various industries – from manufacturing to healthcare, energy, defence and aviation.
While additive manufacturing is accepted as the future of manufacturing, few companies are prepared for this revolution with the assumption that 3D printing is easy to implement and cheap to use. The reality is far from this assumption! Additive manufacturing, like conventional subtractive manufacturing (Lathe, Milling, Grinding) requires an expertise that is only earned from years of experience dealing with specialized designs, machine & material behaviour and support structures, not unlike understanding the nuances of grinding relationship between grinding machine & abrasive wheels.
B: Benefits of additive manufacturing for our customers
Flexmech has been in the precision tooling business for more than 35 years and we’re always on the lookout for new and innovative ways to do things better and explore new manufacturing possibilities. For us, additive manufacturing was a logical progression with great benefits not just for our business but for our customers too. Our associate company, Delphic Manufacturing Singapore has expanded their production capability to include 11 units of 3D printers capable of printing composite and Metal component. To explore your complex parts and functional prototype printing, contact Delphic here.
More product options – additive manufacturing allows factories to expand their product options. With 3D-printed molds, factories can reduce production cost by printing low volume stamping & press molds for plastic injection, sand casting & complicated internal cooling structures.
Greater design flexibility – additive manufacturing also comes with fewer design restrictions, which means we now have the freedom to design complex geometries and develop creative yet practical solutions for our clients.
Shorter production time – One of the greatest advantages of additive manufacturing is a much faster production process. For instance, a design that takes us two weeks to produce using conventional methods could be completed overnight with a 3D printer.
Lower cost – In addition to saving time, opting for 3D-printed components could also potentially result in cost savings of 50% or more.
Why composite printing?
Industrial strength for industrial applications
For industrial applications like jigs, fixtures and other tooling, we need materials that are much, much stronger, more durable and stiffer than regular thermoplastics like ABS, nylon and PLA (which are typically used in most additive manufacturing processes). Composite materials like the ones we use are specially built for strength and have been proven to surpass thermoplastics in all these qualities.
Reinforced structure that enables the printing of strong, stiff and lightweight components
Unlike thermoplastics, composite parts are made up of more than one material and have a structure that comprise a matrix and a reinforcement, resulting in a strong, stiff and lightweight product. The matrix in Markforged composite material is onyx (a nylon-based thermoplastic mixed with chopped carbon fibre, and one of the best plastics for additive manufacturing) and the reinforcement is one of a few specific fibres.
Fibreglass – Engineering grade and affordable, fibreglass is 11 times more rigid than ABS and 3 times stronger with a flexural strength of 210 MPa and tensile strength of 590MPa. Ideal for tooling like drill jigs and soft jaws.
Carbon fiber – Extremely strong with a yield strength comparable to that of 6061 aluminium yet much more lightweight. 24 times more rigid than ABS and 60 times more rigid than nylon. Ideal for components that require maximum stiffness and minimal deflection.
Kevlar – Extremely durable and 15 to 20% lighter than the rest of the other fibre materials. Deflects without losing strength. Ideal for applications that involve a large amount of movement such as grippers.
High-strength high-temperature fibreglass (HSHT) – A unique Markforged material, HSHT retains strength even at temperatures above 150°C with an impact resistance 30 times stronger than ABS. Even at its maximum load, HSHT is able to deflect and return to its original dimensions once the load is lifted. Ideal for applications like welding fixtures, thermos forms, thermos set molds, injection mold inserts and blow molds.
Continuous filament fabrication (CFF) printing method
Unlike other types of additive manufacturing methods, Markforged printers use a signature CFF printing method, where the reinforcement fibres are printed continuously layer by layer. As a result, any weight, impact or load is then effectively distributed along the length of the fibre – firmly held in place by the matrix – and the printed part is made much stronger and much more rigid.
Start your 3D printing journey now
Using 3D printing technology to produce top-quality precision tooling is a relatively simple process as we’ve tried to show in the diagram below.
Flexmech aims to guide our customers through this path, starting your journey with 3D design consultancy, machine & material selection, certificate training for both additive technology basics to machine maintenance & troubleshooting.
Contact us here to begin your additive manufacturing journey!